Toward a Pagan Aesthetic of Home Decor   4 comments

Meditation studio door at the Hermitage

Meditation studio door at the Hermitage

“Our homes can be forbidding fortresses that keep out people, or inviting, hospitable places where guests feel welcomed.  A space can stifle us from reaching our true potential, or replenish our energies and encourage us to do our best.  It can harbor discontent and smother our spirits or spark ingenuity and allow our spirits to soar.”

~ Robin Lennon, Home Design from the Inside Out

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“Good architecture and interior design influence us by inspiring an immediate emotional connection, an evocation more than a linear thought process.  As much as we tell stories about ourselves through language and articulation, so too do we create narratives and belief systems through floorboards and kitchen layouts.”

~ Eva Hagberg, Dark Nostalgia

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“We love…dark materials for their ability to evoke emotions and moods, for their warmth and acceptance of the somber sides of life.  We are re-creating our own history and embracing the darkness that comes with it.”

~ Eva Hagberg, Dark Nostalgia

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Thor's Hammer by Maxine Miller

Thor’s Hammer plaque by Maxine Miller Studios

I love to decorate the Hermitage.  I consider it a form of sacred service.  It is a delight when visitors tell me that the space I’ve created makes them feel relaxed and comfortable, and imparts a sense of respite and retreat – even in the heart of the city.

I take great joy and pleasure in making the Hermitage into a dark, sumptuous feast of texture and colour – a dwelling of the soul.  It is a place of sanctuary that inspires me to dance, pray, do ritual, and write.  The look and feel I aim for is cave-like, opulent, and emotionally evocative – definitely not the sort of minimalist feel that is often associated with traditional monasteries.  I favour dramatic crushed velvet drapes in rich jewel tones, lots of plush overstuffed pillows, textured saris from India, Moroccan lamps and tea sets, fringed tassels, paisley prints, Persian rugs, beaded lampshades, gothic arches, mosaic tiles, canopy beds, semi-private enclosed spaces…and of course well-maintained shrines for the gods and spirits I serve.

I have always had a DIY thrift store sort of style and ethic.  Decorating lavishly with an eye toward the kind of beauty that enriches the spirit needn’t mean spending a lot of money; in fact, I take pride in my ability to pull this off on as little money as possible.  One of my favourite decorating books is a 1981 gem entitled Affordable Splendor: An Ingenious Guide to Decorating Elegantly, Inexpensively, and Doing Most of it Yourself by Diana Phipps.  Another is Pad: The Guide to Ultra-Living by Matt Maranian.  If, like me, you have ever wanted to transform your living space into a combination of opulent tea lounge, temple dance tent, and shrine room, with a dark, gothic, or bohemian-inspired vibe…but with very little funds, then I recommend these books to help you get started.

Futon with purple velvet cover

Futon at the Hermitage with purple velvet cover

Another source of decorating inspiration for me is The Grotto, a well-maintained garden space in Portland with alcoves featuring Catholic statuary, and a meditation space with big comfy chairs and a window with a panoramic view of the city.  I have long yearned for something similar for Pagans.  While all faiths are welcome at The Grotto, and I am happy to go there, I think that there is a need for a similar place with statues of Pagan gods and goddesses.  Although I don’t have a garden space at the Hermitage – nor even a balcony – I love to imagine what I would do if I did have one!

Often, home decorating is trivialised and denigrated as a stereotypically feminine, frivolous, luxury-oriented pursuit driven by little more than a selfish desire to improve social status or conspicuously display wealth.  But in our haste to condemn the shallow, consumerist version of this approach – a critique that is perfectly appropriate, stemming as it usually does from a sense of ecological awareness – we risk throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

Reclaiming the sacramental dimension of the arts of home and hearth is important and timely work, and it can be undertaken on many levels.  Aesthetically pleasing, clean, non-toxic, organised, and consciously decorated surroundings can serve a deeper purpose: honouring the gods and spirits, creating sacred space, and inviting inhabitants and guests alike to turn their attention toward the divine.

As a society and culture, we are chronically overextended, overworked, and undernourished.  When I turn my attention to the arts of home décor, mindful tea service, shrine-building, and home organising, I do so with the intent that my work serve as a conduit for much-needed nourishment: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  I want the Hermitage to be conducive to solitude and replenishment, as well as a welcoming place for visitors to rest and allow awareness to deepen.

Meditation studio at the Hermitage

Inside the meditation studio at the Hermitage

Human beings have a deep, often unacknowledged need for places of delight.  We need sacred living spaces that fill us with joy, allow ample room for play and leisure, and promote comfort and inner ease.  This need is especially acute in the USA, where our modernised, sterile built environment, strip-mall consumer culture, and Puritan work ethic can become especially toxic and draining.  Our spirits have become weary from too many hours spent in built environments that do not nourish us.

A space designed, arranged and decorated skillfully and artfully – with proper attention to textures, colours, arrangement, and compatibility of materials – can become a place that refines the senses and softens the soul.  We can create in our surroundings the conditions that facilitate joy and mindfulness, and empower us to experience the deeper subtleties that are all too easy to miss in our moments of haste.

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4 responses to “Toward a Pagan Aesthetic of Home Decor

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  1. Of course you know I heartily agree! I strive to make my home a sanctuary for myself, a place that inspires me and helps me do my Work. And it was one of the things that I immediately felt kinship with you over, when I first saw your home and understood that you did the same.

    I once struggled with concern that my interest in home decor was too shallow, but now I see it as part of my Art – no different from making jewelry, or dressing, or building beautiful websites – it’s a way of making everything I do artistic. It’s also about mindfulness, that I surround myself only with what I love and what nourishes me, and that I care about the origin of those things (preferring handmade, repurposed, etc.).

    Have you seen this post on my other blog? You might find some good stuff in the links.

    • Thanks for the pointer to your ImWalde post, Dver – I hadn’t seen that yet, and I really like it. You and I are definitely on the same page about this, as we are on so many things! I love the quote you posted as well, especially this part: “I believe that if we surround ourselves with that which we find beautiful, then the air in our homes will hum with our unique magic, a magic that is smelt by visitors and which is ours alone.” Yes! Exactly.

      Our shared approach to mindful, spiritually-focused home decor was definitely one of the factors that helped us become fast friends. Likewise, your place is one of the very few I’ve visited where I’ve felt instantly comfortable. Considering how strong my preferences are for a particular kind of mindful, clean, organised, low-impact, spiritually welcoming and well-maintained living space, that is pretty amazing!

      In general, I would really like to see a lot more respect given to the arts of the home and hearth. There’s nothing shallow about wanting to live in beautiful, inspiring, soulful surroundings that reflect one’s passions and honour the divine.

  2. Btw, you might also enjoy this blog, which is just photos of inspiring interiors:
    http://frommoontomoon.blogspot.com/

    • Oh, that is incredible! Thank you SO much. I’ve spent years looking for blogs that specifically feature bohemian home decor that would be appropriate for a gothic belly dancer, temple keeper, bibliophile, and avid tea drinker – I even have a carefully compiled list of keywords that I’ve used to search for everything from Moroccan tea lounges to funky velvet-draped gothic lairs to opium den themes. But this is the first I’ve seen of that one. So many photos that inspire me. Very much appreciated!

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